Sunday, 17 June 2018

Retro Review // WCW Slamboree 1993: A Legend's Reunion

May 1993 - What a time to be alive. This reviewer was an incredible two months old, Ace of Base were top of the UK singles charts and AC Milan put over Marseille in the UEFA Champions League Final. It really was halcyon days (especially for those Ace of Base fans from Marseille). Also who can possibly forget “hairgate”, eh? Well, amongst all that WCW was holding it's first ever Slamboree event! Presented as a “Legend's Reunion” event with appearances from heroes from yesteryear, the event pivoted around a pair of World title matches as Arn Anderson challenged for Barry Windham's NWA World Heavyweight strap and Vader put his WCW World Heavyweight title up against Davey Boy Smith! But how did all go down at the Omni in Atlanta, Georgia? Lets take a look.

A weird little video package leads us into the show, talking some nonsense about legends, because this show is a Legend's Reunion for some reason.

In the ring, a load of old lads are loitering, like Nick Bockwinkel and some other guys, who are all looking around awkwardly. 

Tony Schiavone and Latte Zbssskfko talk for a bit, with Zbssskfko saying something about time fearing pyramids and then something about Davey Boy Smith needing to bring his kryptonite tonight. 

In one of the weirdest moments I've ever seen in wrestling, Maxx Payne played some generic -tune on his guitar, whilst a load of oily slightly muscly blokes carry a velvet thing down to the ring, it has Fabulous Moolah in it. Nothing happens.  

Eric Bischoff and Missy Hyatt had a chat for a bit about Sting and The Prisoner and then the lights go off on them, but bless them they keep talking. Why are they still talking? Where is the wrestling? Stop running down the card. Stop it. 

Tag Team Match – Beautiful Bobby & Chris Benoit vs. 2 Cold Scorpio & Marcus Alexander Bagwell 

This was an odd match, as whilst it seemed to have a lot of potential early doors, the wheels fell off in the second half, concluding with a horrible looking finish. The highlight of the contest saw Chris Benoit & 2 Cold Scorpio produce some great exchanges at pace, getting the crowd excited. The two had just came off a hot bout at the previous PPV and it's clear to see that the two are well-matched for each other, with a developing chemistry, making it surprising that the two didn't get more opportunities together down the years (beyond a 1994 indy show in California). The match then settled into some heely cheating from Benoit & Beautiful Bobby, with Marcus Alexander Bagwell as your face-in-peril, which was fine, apart from the commentary team completely no-selling it. I was fully expecting a Scorpio hot tag to light the match up and send us home, but pretty much everything after the hot tag ended up coming across as awkward, with a real lack of timing, especially on the part of the veteran Bobby. There was an odd dive attempt from Benoit that got knees from Scorpio, where it was unclear what move Benoit was actually attempting, there was the camera getting the way of Scorpio as he attempted to climb the top rope and then there was Bobby breaking up a pin attempt off a strange looking diving splash from Scorpio at one. Oh yeah and that finish. Fuck me. Scorpio hit his Tumbleweed (Diving corkscrew somersault leg drop) and landed arse first on Benoit's head, which looked absolutely brutal. Things were not made any better by Bobby grabbing the referee who was attempting to count the pinfall for the finish, leading to a confusing ending. There was potential here for a good opener and whilst the match showed signs of heading that direction, the confusion of whatever Beautiful Bobby was doing in the end, the horrendous botch on the finish from Scorpio and Benoit and the deadweight that was Bagwell and you end up with a pretty disappointing contest.

Next PPV – WCW's next PPV was Beach Blast on 18th July, where 2 Cold Scorpio & Marcus Alexander Bagwell would team up again to take on Shanghai Pierce & Tex Slazenger (better known as Henry O. and Phineas I. Godwinn in the WWF). Chris Benoit & Beautiful Bobby had to wait a little longer for their return to PPV, however. AAA's When World's Collide show on 6th November 1994 saw Benoit (as Pegasus Kid) teaming with Scorpio, alongside Tito Santana, to take on Blue Panther, Jerry Estrada & La Parka, whilst it took Bobby over two years to make another PPV appearance as he became Lord Robert Eaton and tagged with Lord Steven Regal (bka as William Regal) as The Blue Bloods to challenge The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs & Jerry Saggs) for the WCW World Tag Team titles at The Great American Bash on 18th June 1995.

Schiavone & Zbssskfko chat some more shite for a bit, about not expecting the next match to be happening, but it is.

Colonel Rob Parker comes out to confront “Heavy Metal” Van Hammer for something Hammer had said previously. Parker gets some lads to bring out a stretcher and then introduces Hammer's opponents...golly, it's Sid Vicious. 

Singles Match - “Heavy Metal” Van Hammer vs. Sid Vicious (w/ Colonel Rob Parker)

A few punches and a powerbomb later and Sid had conquered Van Hammer. The crowd went mad for it, so what ever. 

Next PPV – At Beach Blast, Sid Vicious tagged with Big Van Vader as The Masters of the Powerbomb to face Davey Boy Smith & Sting, whilst it took Van Hammer over five years to return from this squash when he took part in the Three Ring Battle Royal at World War 3 on 22nd November 1998. 

Eric Bischoff interviewed Red Bastien & Bugsy McGraw, with McGraw wondering around aimlessly and looking into the camera in a weird fashion, whilst Bischoof looked inconvenienced by the supposedly coked up old guy.

Legend's Six Man Tag Team Match – “Dirty” Dick Murdoch, “Magnificent” Don Muraco & “The Superfly” Jimmy Snuka vs. “Chief” Wahoo McDaniel, Blackjack Mulligan & “Jumping” Jim Brunzell 

In principle a six man tag featuring a group of legends sounds like a pretty good idea and I'm sure that these six men in their prime would have had a lovely trios bout under the right circumstances, but these men were not in their prime in 1993. As a theme for the show developed, the early exchanges aren't all that bad. It's basic stuff with a few bodyslams and a couple of headlocks, but it's acceptable, before a surprising headscissors takedown from Dick Murdoch to Jim Brunzell became the unexpected highlight of the match. After that it was downhill quicker than a round of Double Gloucester, with Murdoch hitting a nasty looking thing off the top rope on Brunzell, Jimmy Snuka randomly getting in the ring in the middle of a sequence that he was not involved in and then the match ending for literally no reason when everyone started brawling and the referee called it off. Why? What was the point? Did everyone refuse to job? It came off as a complete shambles with no sense of direction and considering none of these guys were part of any on-going storylines, the point of finishing with a never ending brawl seems completely pointless. 

The lads continued to brawl after the match, with Jimmy Snuka taking a mad bump over the top rope. The camera cut away

Next PPV – Dick Murdoch would be the first of these six to return to PPV, jumping to WWF and appearing in the Royal Rumble match on 22nd January 1995. Don Muraco was next as he'd main event for the short lived American Wrestling Federation against Greg Valentine on 12th May 1995, before later that month Wahoo McDaniel would return for another Legend's Reunion, facing Murdoch on 21st May in what would be both man's final match on PPV. Jimmy Snuka had to wait until 17th November 1996, teaming with Flash Funk, Savio Vega & Yokozuna agaisnt Diesel, Faarooq, Razor Ramon & Vader at WWF Survivor Series. This would however be the final PPV appearance for both Blackjack Mulligan & Jim Brunzell and indeed turned out to be Mulligan's last ever match before his death in 2016. 

Missy Hyatt interviewed Mad Dog Vachon & The Assassin, with Vachon weirdly grabbing the microphone away from Hyatt at one point, whilst The Assassin's mask was ridiculously too small for his massive head and neck. Assassin issued an “open challenge” to Dusty Rhodes for a future match. Okay, hen.

Thunderbolt Patterson got in the ring and said that “Bullet” Bob Armstrong had had some kind of bad knee surgery or something, Ivan Koloff kicked off saying the Armstrong's had weak stomachs and were cowards. This lead to Bob's son Brad Armstrong coming out and offering to be Patterson's partner for the evening. Delightful. The lads brawled for a while before the match officially began, whilst the commentary team laughed away.

Tag Team Match - “The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff & “The Master of the Claw” Baron von Raschke vs. Thunderbolt Patterson & Brad Armstrong 

A short tag bout, that would end up becoming the best of the three “Legend's” matches on the card. It was hardly anything to go crazy about and I certainly wouldn't come close to calling it a good match, but there was some fun to be had as Ivan Koloff & Baron von Rascke looked on confused as Thunderbolt Patterson was shucking and jiving. Ol' Latte on commentary pulled out a bemusing line, after Schiavone had listed some facts about the competitors, as he proclaimed “You're just a human fax machine, aren't ya?”, which apart from a fun Patterson hot tag was probably the highlight of the five minutes. Patterson hit a thing for the win and we were out of there. 

Next PPV – Brad Armstrong returned to PPV in 1996 challenging Dean Malenko for the WCW World Cruiserweight title at Slamboree on 19th May, whilst Ivan Koloff waited 20 years for his return as he took on Brad's Dad, Bob, at the Superstars of Wrestling 1 event on 16th November 2013. The show would be Baron Von Raschke's last PPV match before retiring in 1996 and also the last ever match for Thunderbolt Patterson, bringing to a close a career that began almost 30 years earlier. 

Flair for The Gold segment

I get that the Four Horsemen were a big deal, but I have no idea why this segment occurred on the PPV. Billed as the return of the original Four Horseman, what we'd end up getting was the worst incarnation the group ever had, as Paul Roma replaced Tully Blanchard (with Arn and Ole Anderson still present). There perhaps wasn't a more puzzling line-up change until Mutya left the Sugababes in 2005. Everyone cut mild promos, whilst Flair said something weird to Ole Anderson about getting his feet wet, before the Naitch went on a mad one revealing he was ready to compete once again challenge The Hollywood Blondes to a match down the line. This would've been an acceptable TV segment, but on this PPV with so much time already given over to interviewing various legends, it felt more than unnecessary. Flair getting us to stare at his future partner Fifi the Maid's arse was also a weird moment.

Johnny Valentine joined the commentary for the next match.

A promo for Beach Blast 1993 aired, which was only really a cartoon beach with some waves and that. 

Legend's Singles Match – Dory Funk Jr. (w/ “Canada's Greatest Athlete” Gene Kiniski) vs. Nick Bockwinkel (w/ Verne Gagne) 

What could be more fun than watching two men in their fifties wrestle to a 15 minute time limit draw? If you said literally anything else then you're absolutely correct. It's hard to blame either man for this, as what would anyone expect from two chaps of their age who had previously worked a much slower style than had been seen earlier in the show, with the majority of the blame lying with whomever decided that this match would be worth doing in 1993. The first ten to thirteen minutes of this are painfully dull, mostly involving the two exchanging holds with no real direction, whilst an uninterested crowd wasn't even roused by a couple of stiff Bockwinkel forearms. The match isn't helped by a lack of character definition, leading to the Georgia crowd starting a quiet but notice “boring” chant as they struggled to remain invested in the NWA vs. AWA concept. The match did manage to pick up in the closing stages, with some decent near falls as the two get closer to the time-limit, but there's also frustrating moments like Bockwinkel putting his foot on the ropes before the referee can even make a count of one after a Funk piledriver, what might have been a world time record for a backslide attempt and Funk's second Gene Kiniski randomly wandering into the ring on numerous occasions without any admonishment from the referee. 

Next PPV – Dory Funk Jr. was back on PPV three years later as he participated in the 1996 Royal Rumble for the WWF on 21st January. This bout would Nick Bockwinkel's last, bringing an end to career that began in 1954 and saw Bockwinkel compete for the likes of AJPW, the NWA and most famously the AWA. 

Eric Bischoff conducted an interview with Lou Thesz and Bob Giegle, who said some things presumably.

Rick Rude called the crowd “inner city sweat hogs” and then he and Paul Orndorff took off their robes. 

Tag Team Match – “Ravishing” Rick Rude & “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff vs. “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes & Kensuke Sasaki 

The one thing I came away from this match with was just how much hotter that crowd was for members of the current roster than they were for any of the legends, as the Omni began to wake up after being put to sleep by two lads in their fifties. This was a basic tag team contest for the most part, with the heels working over Dustin Rhodes, until a really cool Tombstone Piledriver reversal acted as a hope spot for The Natural. Kensuke Sasaki looked great on his hot tag, appeared to be super over with the crowd and came across as  mad entertaining when he started mocking Rick Rude's hip gyrations and then unfortunately the Slamboree curse reared its head and the finish went to shit. I've no idea what was actually happening. Sasuke waited for ages on the top rope to get pushed off, there was some random aimless brawling with Orndorff and Rhodes and Rude hit a crap looking version of his Rude Awakening finish to take the win. With a solid finish and better timing this would have been a rather cool tag bout, but just like the opener it was let down by some sloppy in the final stages.

Next PPV – At Beach Blast, Rick Rude and Dustin Rhodes would clash in a 30 minute Iron Man match for the the vacant WCW United States Heavyweight title, whilst Paul Orndorff put his WCW World Television title on the line against Ron Simmons. Kensuke Sasaki wasn't back on PPV until 26th November 1995, where he was featured in the Three Ring Battle Royal for the vacant WCW World Heavyweight Championship at World War 3. 

WCW Hall of Fame Inductions

Gordon Solie struggled with the rowdy crowd as he introduced the first inductees into the WCW Hall of Fame. Solie listed some dead lads who couldn't be there, including Buddy Rodgers, Andre the Giant, Pat O'Connor, Gene Anderson, Dick the Bruiser, Wilbur Snyder and someone else, asking for a moment of silence that was not very well observed. Lou Thesz, Verne Gagne, Mr. Wrestling II and Eddie Graham (inducted posthumously and represented by his son Mike Graham) were the four inductees with Solie introducing each man and giving us some facts about their lives and careers.

It was back to Missy Hyatt who conducted interviews with Lord James Blears and John Tolos, with Tolos telling us that WCW was the only way to spell wrestling...okay, John, you mad egg. Blears presented Hyatt with a monocle for some reason, which lead to her saying “Tally ho” in what sounded like a German accent, for reasons known only to her.

Bounty Match – Sting vs. The Prisoner 

Come back Nick Bockwinkel and Dory Funk Jr all is forgiven. Good golly, The Prisoner (perhaps better remembered as Nailz in the WWF) is a trash wrestler and even though Sting was coming off an all-time classic with Big Van Vader at the last PPV, he was unable to do anything to stop this match being a car crash. The highlights mostly came from Latte on commentary as he wondered whether the Prisoner was wearing a “fist proof vest” after he no-sold a couple of body jabs from the Stinger and then uttered “nobody in the cell that time” after Prisoner had missed an elbow drop. I also noted that both men were wearing orange at one point, because nothing of interest was happened for quite some time. The action was sloppy from start to finish, with Prisoner being incompetent at both selling and gaining heat, with the crowd completely ignoring a moment when the former Nailz wrapped a cable around Sting's throat and attempted to hang him until he got bored. After a weird moment where Sting double-legged Prisoner as if attempting to go for the Scorpion Death Lock, only to just go for a pin instead, Sting would win with a crap diving clothesline after Prisoner had been arguing with the referee. Easily the worst match on the card, with absolutely no redeeming features, Sting vs. The Prisoner was a steaming pile of wank, in all honesty. Don't watch it. 

Next PPV – Sting would go on to main event Beach Blast tagging with Davey Boy Smith against The Masters of the Powerbomb (Big Van Vader & Sid Vicious), whilst The Prisoner would never grace the medium of PPV again, going on to have a short run with New Japan in 1994, before retiring officially in 2000. 

The same promo for Beach Blast is shown, just in case you'd forgotten what you saw less than an hour ago

Eric Bischoff was joined by The Crusher, who struggled to remember his Grand children's names as he challenged Ox Baker to a cage match, whilst Baker stood next to him randomly patting himself down. These lads keep trying to work themselves into storylines for some reason. The segment ended with Bischoff looking confused as fuck as Baker gave him a big hug. 

Ricky Steamboat explains that he and Shane Douglas are wearing masks, body suits and sombreros tonight, because the outfits had previously bought them a victory over The Hollywood Blondes. In reality they kept the mask on because it was Tom Zenk and not Shane Douglas that was tagging with Steamboat that night.

Steel Cage Match for WCW/NWA Unified World Tag Team Championship – Dos Hombres (Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat & Shane Douglas*) vs. The Hollywood Blondes (“Stunning” Steve Austin & “Flyin'” Brian Pillman 

*Actually Tom Zenk 

A good Steel Cage match with a terrific closing stretch, this was easily the best match on the card up to this point. The foursome use the cage well at points, including a creative spot with Steve Austin being hung upside down and a Ricky Steamboat double crossbody, but at times it feels like this would've been a better contest outside of the confines of the cage, with their being very little animosity between the two tandems. There's a couple of moments of sloppiness, especially in the middle, with the aforementioned spot with Austin almost ending in disaster, as well as rough looking dropkick from one of the Hombres moments later and a shit looking spinebuster (I think?) from Austin. However, everything from the Hombres hot tag (seemingly to Steamboat) is bloody superb work, with Steamy lobbing lads into the cage and pulling out the always popular, doubble noggin' knocker. It's then onto a brilliant sequence of near falls for the babyfaces, with Steamboat jumping off the top, followed up by DDT's to both Austin and Pillman and then a pair of dropkicks all not being enough to take the titles of the Blondes as the Omni comes unglued with the best reactions of the entire show. Whilst the Blondes then picking up the win feels like an anti-climax, the sequence that leads to Austin nailing a stungun and Pillman hitting a DDT is very well put together, with it's intricacies only really noticeable on the replay. The matches with Shane Douglas are better, but this is another decent addition to the Hollywood Blondes vs. Dos Hombres rivalry.

Next PPV – The Hollywood Blondes would put their tag straps on the line at Beach Blast against the Four Horseman tandem of Arn Anderson & Paul Roma. Ricky Steamboat would have to wait until Fall Brawl on 19th September, where he'd put his WCW United States Heavyweight Championship up against Lord Steven Regal. Tom Zenk would stay with WCW until March 1994, but didn't receive another opportunity on PPV, before a short-stint with AJPW and then retirement in 1996.

Stu Hart, Mr. Wrestling II and Dusty Rhodes joined Eric Bischoff for another bizarre interview as Rhodes accepted The Assassin's challenge and started taking his clothes off, whilst Wrestling II seemed to have no idea who either man was and then Hart babbled about his family and put over Davey Boy Smith's chances in the main event.

Singles Match for NWA World Heavyweight Championship - “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson vs. Barry Windham © 

Whilst it was held back by an eleven minute run-time, Arn Anderson's challenge for Barry Windham's NWA World Heavyweight title still manages to tell a strong story, with enough big spots peppered in between to give this clash a real main event feel at times. With both men being members of the Four Horsemen at times, the story centralises around Anderson attempting to get into Windham's head with early covers attempts as the two exchange sportsman-like holds, before quickly erupting into a wild brawl that spills to the outside. Windham being the first to crack with some big strikes and a gruesome looking knee strike, leads the match well towards it's storyline peak with Anderson clattering Windham's head off the barricade twice and the Texan beginning to bleed relatively heavily. The use of blood is very effective here as it sells just how far the issue between the men has come from their good-natured wrestling at the start, whilst also adding to moments later in the match as Windham grows more and more desperate to end the contest and walk out with the belt in anyway he possibly can. In terms of spots, a dropkick from Windham that knocked Anderson off the top rope to the floor and is then followed up with suplex on the floor are amongst the highlights, whilst a well-timed out of nowhere spinebuster from Anderson gets a spectacular pop, despite being undersold by the commentary team (with Windham quickly rolling to the outside). The finish does come across as flat, mostly because the match had struggled for convincing near falls previously, as Windham nails Anderson with the title belt, after the ref had been chucked across the ring by a frustrated Arn, before simply getting a cover for win. Perhaps it's the times we're living in or that it was only 11 minutes into a World title match, but I fully expected Anderson to kick out before the match would head towards a much more satisfying conclusion, but nope, that did not happen and I looked to a non-existent camera in a way that would've made Martin Freeman proud. As you'd expect with these two lads, they don't put a foot wrong here, with a number of well-done sequences, both pure wrestling and brawling, but there just isn't enough of it. This bout is worth checking out, but be prepared to feel slightly unfulfilled by the time it ends.

Next PPV – Barry Windham would successfully defend the NWA World Heavyweight Championship against 2 Cold Scorpio at Clash of the Champions (16th June), going on to face Ric Flair with the title on the line at Beach Blast, whilst Arn Anderson challenged for the WCW/NWA Unified Tag Team belts with Paul Roma opposite the champions, The Hollywood Blondes. 

The commentary team discussed Davey Boy Smith getting involved in Big Van Vader's public workout the previous night on Saturday Night, before leading into the main event. I guess this was the closest we got to a hype package in 1993.

Singles Match for WCW World Heavyweight Championship - Davey Boy Smith “The British Bulldog” vs. Big Van Vader © (w/ Harley Race)

Big lads, big lads, big lads. Big Van and Davey Boy put on a really good power vs. power contest, that is loaded with power moves, some splendid highspots and actually a couple of good wrestling sequences as well. The first two thirds of the contest are especially well done, beginning with some simple “show and tell” sequences as we see that Vader's power is having little effect on Smith, before quickly snowballing into big spots like Vader missing a crossbody attempt on the floor and flying over the guardrail, before Smith gets to  show off his power with a beautiful powerslam on the floor (after hoisting Vader up over the guardrail and onto his shoulder in one smooth motion). The two shows a good chemistry when working quicker sequences also and whilst the two keep things relatively simple, it's clear that both know what will work and stick to it, as they use the fake out sunset flip spot, as well as Vader blocking a crucifix pin attempt with a ring-rattling modified samoan drop. The match begins to lose its way a little when Vader comes flying off the top with a splash and then loudly shouts “SHIT” when he lands awkwardly on his knee. Harley Race plays for time on the outside as Vader looks to finish the match, but it's clear that the match would have been much stronger in the closing stages had Vader not suffered a minor injury mid-match. We do get a great looking electric chair drop, that gets an equally electric reaction from the Omni, as well as Race breaking the cover after a running powerslam, but the match eventually ends with Vader clobbing Smith with a four-legged chair for the DQ. Another disappointing conclusion, in a show that is riddled with uncreative booking and lazy endings.

After the match, Marcus Alexander Bagwell and 2 Cold Scorpio both attempted to save Davey Boy Smith unsuccessfully, before Sting was able to come flying down the ramp to save Smith from a powerbomb...setting up this supposedly...

Next PPV – Both men would remain in the main event for the next PPV, Beach Blast, as Big Van Vader tagged with Sid Vicious as The Masters of the Powerbomb, against the team of Davey Boy Smith & Sting. 

Eric Bischoff was joined by Magnum T.A. To discuss the result of the match with Magnum putting over the quality of the competitors.

Tony Schiavone & Latte Zbssskfko spoke to Verne Gagne, who put over the talent of WCW, saying he was shocked at the quality on the roster, before the lads wished us a good night. 

The credits roll to close the show as some lovely generic rock music plays us out. What a time to be alive 1993 was, lads. 

Seriously, take out the Legend's matches and there's a good PPV in here somewhere. Bobby & Benoit vs. Scorpio & Bagwell and Rude & Orndorff vs. Rhodes & Sasaki both aren't perfect but feature some good wrestling at points and whilst Sid Vicious's short return and the god-awful Sting vs. Prisoner match aren't worth your time at all, the show ends up finishing with three good to very good title matches that have plenty of variety. Whilst all three finishes are anti-climatic the trio of bouts that close the show are all well-worth getting your peepers on if you haven't seen them already. But the Legend's matches all coming back to back mean that I wouldn't recommend this show as a complete experience. That would be irresponsible. The whole legends concept sounds pretty cool on PPV, but with the multiple interviews and the fact that the crowd couldn't have given a crap for any of these lads that WCW dragged out to them, in execution it's a shitshow pretty much across the board. 

Next time - TNA Lockdown 2006 

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